Facilitation

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Process

To facilitate a meeting with the omni commons community, consider aspects of this general process:

  • Prepare
    • Create an agenda
      • Either bring in direct feedback from participants/stakeholders, work on a collaborative agenda, or use a default agenda to be informed at the time of meeting.
      • Consider using a digital or online notepad in order to make it easier to post meeting minutes
      • Ensure every item on the agenda has an allotted time, and that the total time of the meeting fits within constraints of your meeting.
    • If possible and valuable, make the agenda (or a rough sketch of the agenda) accessible to all using a projector, whiteboard, chalkboard, poster, etc.
      • If possible, update the agenda as the meeting goes on and take notes within or alongside this displayed agenda.
  • Start the meeting
    • Welcome people to the space, ensure folks are aware a meeting will take place and the subject of the meeting is known.
    • Introduce yourself as the facilitator
      • Ensure attendees understand facilitation is a collective burden and responsibility that exists to be conscious of power dynamics in the group and adjust the setting and priorities in good faith and best effort.
      • Offer that as the facilitator, you are welcome to change facilitators at any time, even mid-meeting, especially to shift the tone of the meeting.
    • Announce any needs for other roles in the meeting, then fill them with willing volunteers:
      • Note-taker is an essential role to document important conversations, which can be used for reference and transparency for the future.
      • Time-keeper can help share the burden of keeping time with the facilitator
      • Stack-taker can help share the burden of managing lists of questions / comments / points of information / points of process / etc.
      • Vibe-reader can help keep aware of tone and feelings of those participating in the room, able to point out when it seems certain needs are not being met.
        • For instance, maybe a pause to encourage breathing and reflection, or a bathroom break, or meeting needs for water/food can change a meeting's tone dramatically.
  • Carry through the meeting
    • Use the agenda, but be aware of your ability to shuffle, re-organize, or edit it as you go and to suit your needs.
    • When you hit time limits, depending on the context, you can choose to:
      • Extend the discussion at the facilitator's discretion
      • Inquire for a comfortable amount of time to extend the discussion.
      • Add a new item to the agenda to continue the discussion at another point in the meeting or a future meeting.
      • End the discussion and move on, reminding folks that discussions can be brought up again in the future as necessary.
    • Aim for the consensus process:
      • A consensus process assumes that the participants' perspectives, experiences, and contributions are inherently valuable, in an air of good-faith collaboration. Therefore, the group is striving to bring together the participants' legitimate experiences in order to do things together, especially to do those things that the individuals could not do alone or independently. Your goal is to show what you have in common and how you hold consent, as well as to work creatively and cleverly to arrive at satisfactory and consensual tasks, conclusions, or decisions.
        • For instance, most folks might agree that you want to order a pizza (some already ate and are agnostic), some of the hungry are vegetarian, so a 50/50 split vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizza is acceptable to all. However some of the eaters are concerned with the quality of the non-vegetarian ingredients, which they suggest may be researched by analyzing the ingredients for this first pizza in a way that will inform future decisions. Consensus!
  • End the meeting
    • Pick a time, place, and facilitator for your next meeting, if necessary.
    • Get consent to end the meeting, either by:
      • Ensuring there are no items left on the agenda and nothing new needs to be added at the moment.
      • Tabling any left-over items to a future meeting due to appropriateness or an exhaustion of resources in the current meeting.
  • Document and Reflect
    • Share the meeting minutes, any relevant notes, and the final agenda with others:
  • Start-over or hand-off
    • Prepare to meet again, encourage others to take on new roles, actions, and reflections.

Tools

  • yar is creating a simple script that announces how long someone has been speaking, currently set at 30 second intervals, with more features in the works!: https://github.com/yardenac/takestack

Tips

  • Set an agenda before or at the beginning of the meeting, and work hard to stick to it.

Resources

  • The Aorta Collective has a most excellent document on Anti-Oppressive Facilitation
  • Seeds for Change has a ton of resources on consensus decision-making, facilitation, conflict-resolution, meetings, co-op structures, and more! Check it out!